April 27, 2011

Not in our town? Sexual assault happens here {featured contributor}

By Amanda Pettis/HOPE Center

Two years ago, I shared my story of abduction and stranger rape in the Northfield News. While my assault did not occur in Northfield, I was a bit shocked at some of the responses I received by people who said things like, “Well, this sort of thing doesn’t happen in our town.” Unfortunately this belief gets in the way of a common understanding of the prevalence of, and need for services for survivors of sexual assault.

I believe there is still much denial about what goes on in our community, but I am here to tell you that it does happen here. I have heard these first-hand accounts:
A college professor who was slipped a drug and date-raped.
A college student who was sexually assaulted by her long-term boyfriend.
A mother who was sexually violated by an acquaintance and colleague in her own home.
A male who was sexually abused by clergy for several years.
A single, working professional who was the victim of stalking at her work place.
They are mothers and they are children. They are teachers and they are students. They are men and women. They are rich and poor. They are from all ethnic groups and faith traditions.

And they were all victimized in Northfield [Minnesota, USA].

By sharing my story, I have enabled others to share their stories, sometimes for the first time, with me. Yet, I know there are countless others who still suffer in silence.

We can no longer say, “This doesn’t happen in my town.” But we can say, “We will not stand for this to happen in my town.” Because the overall health and vitality of the Northfield community depends upon everyone living without the fear of violence, we must raise public awareness about how sexual violence impacts our community and work to educate ourselves, our children and each other about how to prevent it. As a mother and concerned citizen, I urge you take the time to learn more about this issue and what steps you can take to create positive changes in your own life.

If you are ready to stand up and acknowledge that sexual violence is a problem in our town, please visit the HOPE Center’s Web site — stories are confidential. We want your hope and your healing. To share your story, or to sign the pledge, go to www.hopecentermn.org and sign the Voices Against Violence pledge. If you are so moved, please share your own story of sexual assault.

The HOPE Center is the only organization in Rice County providing free, direct support to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. It is also committed to creating zero tolerance for violence by collaborating with many community agencies and schools to provide education and prevention strategies in Northfield and all of Rice County.

Become a friend of HOPE Center on Facebook or check out our blog. And of course wear a teal ribbon in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual violence, whether it was 10 minutes ago, or 10 years ago — we are here to help.

--This article was originally published in the Northfield News during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (2010). The author served on HOPE Center’s board of directors.

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